The University Record, February 13, 1996

U and Detroit leaders collaborate for better city

By Paula Saha
News and Information Services

More than 200 Detroit neighborhood organization leaders and city officials, including Mayor Dennis Archer, joined University administrators, faculty and students Feb. 2 in a "show-and-share" symposium, "Commitment to Collaboration: New Strategies for Community-Based Development in Detroit." "The University and Detroit enjoy a long history of collaboration," said President James J. Duderstadt in his lunchtime address to symposium participants.

"Although the University's official addresses today are in AnnArbor, Dearborn and Flint, our Detroit-based projects span the gamut and include research, teaching and training, consultation and technical assistance in such areas as business and economic development, education and the environment, health and human services, and housing and neighborhood revitalization."

During eight working sessions that took place throughout the day, the University was able to share these resources with community-based organizations and civic agencies, as well as strengthen working relationships, reflect critically on projects and promote partnerships for future collaboration.

In "Civic-Networking for Neighborhood-Based Organizations," participants discussed the on-line resource support available to community groups through the University.

Mark Hass of the Academic Outreach Program sees the new computer culture as "creating a medium to take University resources outside the Universityinclude people in a vast network and create a collaborative community with people outside Ann Arbor." He pointed to several programs developed by the University for that purpose.

One such program is Michigan Comnet, a collaborative effort sponsored by the U-M, WTVS/Channel 56 and United Way, in addition to other community groups, businesses, social agencies, and governmental and educational institutions. Comnet is a page on the World Wide Web with organized links to local and Internet public service resources. The program fosters the use of computer technology in the non-profit and public service sectors for increased and more efficient communication and information sharing.

Geneva Jones-Williams, executive vice president and COO of United Way Community Services, recognizes the efficiency of on-line support, but warned that it "won't deliver without the people side. Collaborations work with honest agendas, focused interest, clearly defined roles, and a balance of people power and technology."

Student Natalie Wiley of the Michigan Neighborhood AmeriCorps Program who worked in the partnership between WTVS and U-M, agreed that the people who are trying to be reached through a collaboration must be considered. "Our bottom line is customer satisfaction." Because computers are not readily accessible to all community organizations, Wiley devises other methods of distributing University resources.

Paula Allen-Meares, dean of the School of Social Work, pointed out that community groups also have much to offer the University. "This is a two-way partnership," she said. "We can become one community, collaborating as well as creating new opportunities for University students and faculty."

Another side of the partnership was explored in "University Students as Technical Assistance Providers." Pat Alexander from Core City Neighborhoods, an organization that takes U-M student volunteers from social work, urban planning and law, said that working with students is "a win-win situation. Students will make more humane and beneficial decisions in the future based on the experiences they are having now."

Josh Sirefman and Matt Rosen of the Michigan Neighborhood Americorps Program expressed concern about the ambiguities of the role of the student as a community worker. "Students are working for a grade, as well as working on a project beneficial to the organization with which they are placedthere is definite potential for conflict." Both students and organization leaders agreed that the opportunity to share these perspectives could only improve the programs.

"It takes a village to raise a child," was the resounding refrain in "Strengthening School-Family-Community Collaboration" as educators exchanged ideas with University researchers on providing better education for inner-city ch ildren.

Department of Psychology Lecturer Rosario Ceballo presented her research on the effects of neighborhoods on parenting behavior and child well-being. She pointed to increased stressors in urban poverty leading to post -traumatic-stress disorder, resulting in sleep disorders, nightmares and difficulty concentratingall of which affected schoolwork. "We can no longer afford to avoid community variables," she stated.

School of Education Prof. Arnetha Ball has studied successful urban community-based learning programs as a model for educational reform. "It is important for University personnel, as part of collaboration, that they come in not as experts, but as learners."

The session on "Business and Economic Development" examined how community-based organizations collaborate to enhance economic development in a metropolitan economy. Larry Molnar of Business and Industrial Assistance Division (BIAD) talked about business incubators and the work being done by BIAD to survey and assess the needs of Detroit-area businesses.

Other working session topics included providing legal assistance for urban communities, community-based public health, creating multicultural neighborhood-based human services, and young people as community builders.

Throughout the day, individuals representing various groups were able to meet with one another and exchange ideas with those who shared similar interests or resources.

In his address to symposium attendees, Archer commended the University on reaching beyond Ann Arbor and "coming together in a collaborative spirit to make sure we're doing the right thing, creating new opportunities for the City of Detroit."

Also speaking was Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Michael Stegman. Stegman replaced HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros who originally proposed the idea for the symposium on a visit to the U-M campus last year.

Stegman highlighted HUD plans for a redistribution of power in which new block grants and funds will implement urban reform more through community leaders and neighborhood organizations than through federal measures. Universities can play a critical role in assisting community groups in urban revitalization, he said.

Barry Checkoway, U-M director of community service and community service learning urged community leaders to heed Stegman's words. "Make demands on the U-M to make our resources accessible to you. We are in Detroit, but you in the community must make demands on us."